#196 Living on Assignment

 Photo by Sophie Goforth

God saved me from death eight years ago but, more importantly; He gave me a new beginning when, by all rights, there should only have been a tragic ending. 

My name is Melissa and I’m a recovering addict, but much more, I’m a redeemed child of God. I am a writer by trade, and have done well in this career; although I have failed miserably as the author of my own story. The story I tried to write of my life was one I insisted on filling with excitement, money, power, control, and all the love and adoration I could stand. I wanted the perfect modern-day fairytale, and I wanted things to go my way, on my terms. However, the sad story I strung together for four decades was pretty on the outside but a total mess on the inside. It was completely empty, yet filled with selfishness, shame, regret, loneliness, unresolved anger, addiction, and despair. My tragic tale included bad choices, bad characters, and a very bad outcome. 

On January 29, 2012, God got tired of the way I was writing Melissa’s story, and closed the book on it. 

Prior to this, I was the hero of my own story. I appeared to be an empowered, single mom who was in control of every career move. I had worked as a reporter and had worked at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. I have met astronauts and had my accomplishments recognized on the floor of Mission Control. I have the only Hello Kitty doll that’s traveled to space! I was a successful woman on the outside and a total train wreck on the inside. I struggled with excess for a long time — excessive need for attention, excessive need for stimulation, and excessive need for alcohol to dull and/or enhance every situation in life. I was horrible at relationships, constantly thinking I needed the attention of men, and unable to control my drinking to the point of not remembering the night and, eventually, the days before. The character Melissa, whom I didn’t want people to know on a deep level, was not a nice, pretty person. She caused so much hurt with her drunken words. She didn’t care for her precious daughter like she should have, and she found herself being in trouble with the law around every corner. She even spent the night in jail after passing out in her running truck in a parking lot one afternoon. 

You would think after all that mess, and so much more, it would have prompted a change of heart. But even a weeklong stay in the hospital with pneumonia, brought on by a weakened, alcohol-induced state, didn’t change my heart. Destroying essentially every valuable relationship as a drunk didn’t change my heart either. Even threats from my parents to take my daughter from me because I was an unfit mother didn’t change my heart. In all my despair and shame, I was still prideful and stubborn. I was unwilling to do the work I needed to get my life on track. I wanted help but I wouldn’t budge. I still wanted to control my own story. I couldn’t get on top of my addiction, so I would pray and pray to God asking Him to save me from my every mess, which He did over and over again. But was I grateful, was I remorseful? Did it change my heart? NO! I just made bigger messes. It was the pattern in my life that kept me away from God. Even worse, I was a master at hiding my true self and making life look perfect to those who barely knew me. I kept those who knew the truth about me shut out as much as possible. 

I kept all my lies, deceit, and charades in motion until a dreary Sunday afternoon on January 29, 2012. That’s the day my world fell apart. My sodium level bottomed out and my body was depleted of all the nutrients it needed to live. 

I had essentially drank myself to death. 

In front of my four-year daughter and elderly father, I collapsed face-first and started convulsing. I don’t have a memory of it, but my dad told me later that I began throwing up and had blood coming out of my mouth. My dad called 911. My daughter was crying and the ambulance came and took me away. They didn’t have time to get me to the trauma center at the university hospital because they said I would have been dead on arrival, so they took me to a local hospital. When they wheeled me in, I was frothing at the mouth. My friend Gabe, whom I call my angel Gabriel, happened to be the nurse on duty. He was stunned to see me like that. They had already done CPR, and they couldn’t get me to breathe. 

I was dying. 

Gabe, who now calls me Miracle Melissa, told me he was so worried I wasn’t going to make it. Another nurse walked in and bluntly said “Oh, she’s going to die.” He could tell I was fading fast so he prayed over my body. He prayed for God to intercede and for me to live. It was out of medical hands at that point. In the two days that followed I was unconscious and on a ventilator. But, in that time, my entire life was transformed. 

While I appeared nearly dead to the world, I was on the other side and had an experience that was so profound it altered the course of my remaining life on earth. I was alive in this world physically but in every other way I was living on the other side. It’s funny, I didn’t believe in near-death experiences until I had one. I don’t want to be the crazy near-death lady, but it is what it is. There really are no words to describe what I experienced, but I will try my best. 

It was the “realest” experience I have ever had. I went through a life review, vividly experiencing my life from birth until the moment I collapsed. Not just seeing it, but truly experiencing it with all my senses, including smells. It was wonderous and upsetting all in one. I relived a lot of joyous times but also saw how my negativity had overwhelmed my life. I saw how I had taken for granted all the blessings — and third and fourth chances God had given me. My time on the other side was filled with Jesus, full of grace, advocating for me. I pleaded with God to return me to my daughter Sophie. I didn’t read the Bible, so I didn’t know that it says Jesus is my Advocate (1 John 2:1). God had mercy on me, allowing me to come back to life. I woke up knowing that the most important thing in life is the love we give and the love we allow other people to pour into us. When I was allowed to return to life, I was given two assignments, clear as day. Number one, “get my life right.” Number two, “tell my story.” I have spent every day since then trying my best to do both. Even though I’m not perfect, God still gives me grace. He knows I am trying this time. I wasn’t trying before. The first person I shared my story with was my nurse, and she just sat down and wept. She said she had been praying for God to show her He is real.

Miraculously, I experienced no health issues after my brush with death. But the spiritual experience radically changed my life. I have more than 3,000 days of sobriety. I was the one who couldn’t go more than three hours without using alcohol or drugs. I know now without a doubt that God and Jesus are real and that our time on earth is just part of a much, much bigger picture. This knowledge has not only convicted me to live better, but it has freed me mentally and emotionally to live a bolder and more vibrant life for the Lord. I now let my life shine bright for Him, which is something I never did before. Before, my life seemed well put together, but it was depleted in every sense of the word. Without a personal relationship with Jesus to depend on at that time, I was crumbling quickly under the stress, sadness, and emptiness. My collapse represented where I was with life in all aspects, physically, emotionally, mentally and, above all, spiritually. 

Now fast forward to this moment, and for me to be walking bolding in the light and standing strong is nothing short of a miracle. Any one that knows me can point to that collapse and say the experience changed me forever. My life was still a mess when I woke up. It wasn’t perfectly put back together instantly. But I learned that I had to let go and give my problems to God. And He has pieced my world back together in incredible ways. 

I was baptized in my early 20s. I believed in God but I didn’t have a personal relationship with Jesus. But God didn’t give up on me. I knew God wasn’t punishing me. The life review was so important because it showed me all the chances God had given me. I have to push myself to share my story because I don’t want to be labeled crazy. I never knew that telling my story would set me free and point others to Christ. My story is not Melissa’s story. It’s God’s story told through Melissa’s life. I now serve people in active addiction and recovery, using my story. God has turned my mess into my message. Every day I get to use what was my shame to help pull people out their own personal hell. I know where to look for them in that darkness because I’ve tried to hide there too. 

God gave me the chance to get my life right, but I had to let Him take over as the Author of my story. I am still in awe of the way He has transformed me from life as an addicted, twice-divorced, single mom — stumbling through deep, dark despair — to someone living as a sober, devoted mom, grateful friend, and active church member who loves life. I have watched my daughter grow, rebuilt relationships with my parents, reconnected with friends and now I have a great Godly man in my life who loves me AND my redemption story! I’ve been transformed by the Lord into something beautiful. He has allowed me to connect with hurting hearts in my job — there is nothing that compares. 

The story God has written for me is beyond what I thought I deserved or would ever receive from Him. Honestly, all I had to do was to hand Jesus the broken pieces of the mess I had created over the years and let Him rebuild my shattered world. From there, Jesus took control, and I have never looked back. 

Don’t give up until your miracle happens. God is there. You just have to reach out and be willing to do what He calls you to do. 

“…. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Jeremiah  29:11 (NIV)

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.

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